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Small but Mighty: Goddard SmallSat technology transferred to a small business in Utah

Thermal Management Technologies' Gecko Release Mechanism is based on a Goddard technology for small satellites.
Thermal Management Technologies’ Gecko Release Mechanism is based on a Goddard technology for small satellites.

After two years, a small but mighty piece of NASA SmallSat technology has transferred successfully to industry, thanks to a connection made at the 2017 Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

Thermal Management Technologies (TMT), a company based in North Logan, Utah, licensed the Diminutive Assembly for Nanosatellite deploYables (DANY) in 2018, and this year, TMT completed its first sale.

“Our business is very focused on the small satellite industry, which is one of the reasons we liked this particular release mechanism that we licensed,” says Scott Schick, director of engineering at TMT. “This device fits in well with the other thermal control and structural technologies that we sell.”

DANY – created by Goddard inventors Luis Santos, Scott Hesh, and John Hudeck – provides a reliable mechanism to secure deployable elements of a small satellite, safely stowing them until receiving a signal to burn through a plastic restraining link and release them for use in space. Deployable elements on a small satellite can include solar arrays, sun shades, radiators, or antennas. The entire assembly is about the size of a credit card, making it ideal for small satellites that have significant space restraints.

TMT used DANY as the core of its “Gecko Release Mechanism,” named after the device’s gecko-like size and ability to grip tightly onto a spacecraft.

Over the past year, Schick and his team have worked to modify NASA’s original design to enable the production of multiple units. After several months of adjustments, TMT now has a marketable product ready for sale. 

Schick says that when it comes to working with NASA technologies, “it’s important to do your homework and make sure you understand what it takes to turn the technology into a product. With this device, we’re better positioning ourselves to support engineers and missions that fit into the small satellite market.”

Technology managers with the Goddard Technology Transfer Office are always available to answer questions or help move projects forward. For more information, please email or call 301-286-5810.